A/N So I keep seeing clips from Bloodlust, and specifically the one during the fight scene, and I just couldn't get the look on Dean's face after he hit Sam out of my head. And from musing on what he was thinking came this... I hope you like it...
Sam opened the door to the bar, blinking slightly as he was assaulted by the usual strong smells of beer, smoke and things it was best not to think too hard about. There was music playing somewhere, his mind absently registering the song and the band, and he noticed that no one even turned round to see who'd come in. Clearly this wasn't one of those bars where they were wary of strangers, which was actually something of a relief.
Focusing on the reason he'd come here in the first place, Sam scanned the room and finally spotted what he was looking for. Making a quick detour to the bar to pick up two beers he headed for the far corner and dropped down onto the vinyl seat, sliding in at the same time as he slid one of the bottles across the table.
"Nice place." he said, dryly, after taking a long sip out of his own bottle.
As he waited for a response he reflected that someone that slouched shouldn't be able to shrug, yet somehow Dean managed it.
"We've been in worse."
Sam couldn't really argue with that so he just nodded and took another drink. As he did so he studied his brother, trying to gauge just how drunk Dean was and also just how deep the current black mood ran.
Judging from the look in Dean's eyes it ran very deep and he hadn't had nearly enough to drink yet.
Sam adopted the same slouched position and tried to decide how he was going to proceed with this one.
Other than very carefully.
Dean meanwhile emptied half the bottle in one swig and set it back down on the table. In truth he hadn't been surprised to see Sam appear in front of him. Honestly, the surprising thing was that it had taken this long for his brother to come looking for him. He knew he hadn't been hiding his feelings all that well lately and he'd have to have been blind not to notice the concerned looks that kept coming his way. He just couldn't seem to get a handle on it though, which was why he'd come here in the first place. He was hoping that maybe enough alcohol would give him a reprieve from the thoughts swirling in his head, however brief, but tonight even that wasn't working. And now Sam was here, probably thinking that maybe he'd be able to get Dean to tell him what was bothering him.
This just kept getting better.
Sam watched as Dean shredded the label on the bottle, smiling slightly to himself. He wondered if his brother knew how much of a giveaway that particular habit was. He only tended to do it when something was worrying him or when he was stuck in an uncomfortable situation.
He wondered which one this was. Probably both.
He looked away from the label shredding back up to Dean's face, seeing that he was being watched in return. He gave a small smile and was relieved when it was returned, however briefly.
"So I think I found another job for us." he said, casually, and Dean gave a slight nod.
Sam sighed to himself, realising this was going to be one of their pulling teeth conversations, but nonetheless carried on.
"It's about two hundred miles from here, so we should start early tomorrow."
"Might be a skinwalker, from the sound of it."
"I thought we could try a little group therapy on it. Maybe some fairy healing. Get it to see the error of it's ways."
"Sure. Wait, what did you say?"
Sam rolled his eyes.
"Oh nothing. You know, since I was talking to myself. Could you at least pretend to pay attention?"
Dean shifted in his seat and slid even further down. Sam wondered how long before he'd disappear under the table completely.
"I was paying attention. You want us to drive two hundred miles and check out a skinwalker. Did I miss anything?"
Sam tried not to sound as exasperated as he felt.
"Only the part where you drifted off somewhere else. Like you have been doing for the past week I might add."
There was a wealth of hidden meaning in that one word, all of which Sam got. And ignored.
He'd learnt at a young age that if you waited for Dean to tell you when something was wrong you'd wait forever, so he'd developed a process that was not unlike poking a bear with a stick until it came after you. It took skill, inside knowledge, and the ability to duck and run. But usually it was worth it in the end.
Of course it didn't escape Sam's notice that it only seemed to work with him. He'd seen others try it before, even John and Bobby, and all that usually resulted in was Dean lashing out and then disappearing for hours, sometimes days. It seemed he was the only one who could get away with it and live to tell the tale.
Deciding they'd both need more alcohol for this Sam stood up and went over to the bar, coming back with two more beers. There were a couple of glasses on the table that told him Dean had already hit the strong stuff earlier, so he figured it might be better to steer clear of anymore of that. He wanted Dean to talk to him after all, not to have to carry him back to the motel and listen to Metallica's greatest hits sung deliberately off key and to completely different tunes than James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett had originally intended.
Dean recognised the determined look in Sam's eye and wondered if it was too late to make a run for it. Unfortunately he had a feeling those four whiskies he'd had before Sam got there might make coordination a bit of an issue and the truth was, he didn't have the energy right now anyway. Instead he was going to have to put up with Sam's attempt to get him to talk. Which he always enjoyed so much.
Sam came back over and sat down again, putting the two new bottles on the table. Picking up the one he was still drinking he sat back in the booth and got comfortable. Dean ignored the measured look he was getting and finished his first bottle, moving straight on to the second. Sam winced and made a mental note to leave the painkillers at the top of the first aid kit for the morning.
And to take hold of the car keys.
The song that was currently blaring out ended and there was brief silence before the next one began. As it started Dean smiled to himself and looked up at Sam. Sam smiled back and found himself tapping his foot as the guitars kicked in - Carry On My Wayward Son had been a favourite of both of theirs for years. Sam let Dean relax as he listened to the music and hummed along, biding his time for the right moment. As the song came to an end he decided that was it.
"So do you want to do this the usual way or can we bypass the twenty minutes of me asking what's wrong and you saying everything's fine?"
Dean blinked. Obviously Sam had decided on the more direct approach this evening, which was a little disconcerting.
"I've no idea what you mean."
"Oh good. We're doing it the old fashioned way." Sam said, dryly, and Dean deliberately avoided his gaze instead finishing off his second beer and pushing himself up.
He hadn't even got fully out of the booth before Sam grabbed his arm.
"Where are you going?"
"The bathroom. You wanna come hold my hand?"
Sam let go and gestured that Dean could continue, getting an eyeroll in response. He watched his brother weave his way across the bar, not surprised that he was actually hiding how much he'd had to drink pretty well. Sam often thought Dean should have been an actor or a professional gambler, given how good he was at hiding things. Not that it was trait that made Sam's job any easier of course.
He took another drink of his beer and kept his eye on the men's room, alert for any sign of trouble. There was a fairly rowdy atmosphere in the bar, most of it good natured, but it always paid to be ready just in case. He'd seen enough fights start over nothing and turn bad before you could even blink and while Dean would usually be smart enough to walk away, given his current mood and the amount of alcohol in his system Sam was a little more apprehensive than usual.
He was relieved when Dean came out barely five minutes later, although less so when he stopped at the bar on his way for yet more beer. He shook his head slightly when one was placed in front of him and watched as Dean slid back into the booth and adopted the slouch position again.
"So." he said, when nothing was forthcoming after a minute and Dean gave him an innocent look.
Sam could inject just as much hidden meaning into his brother's name and Dean winced slightly. Making a run for it was suddenly looking a much more attractive prospect.
Switching tactics Sam leaned forward on the table, softening his expression and his voice.
"Look, I can see something's been bothering ever since our little encounter with Gordon. I just want to help, ok? You can't keep pretending to be asleep and hiding in bars all night, Dean."
Dean's eyes widened slightly at the pretending to sleep comment, particularly since he'd thought he was being pretty convincing. Apparently there were down sides to living so closely with someone for 24 years.
He cleared his throat and took a sip of beer, even though at this point he didn't really want it anymore. In fact his stomach was beginning to seriously protest the amount of alcohol he'd consumed in such a short space of time and he found himself hoping he wasn't about to put the icing on the cake by hurling everywhere. Forcing his mind back to the task in hand he gave Sam a slightly sheepish look.
"I thought I was being more subtle than that. How come you were awake anyway?"
"Oh no, don't try the whole diversion thing on me – this is you we're talking about."
"I see, so you want me to spill my guts about why I'm awake all night but you won't talk about why you are? That's nice equality there, Sam."
Sam was unmoved.
"I'm awake because I know you are and I'm worried about you. Are you going to tell me your reason now?"
Dean's gaze narrowed.
"Pretty convenient, that, making it all about me. Especially given the fact you've slept badly for the last year, and you can hardly say that all of that has been because you were worrying about me."
"I wasn't going to. But I have actually told you what most of my sleepless nights have been about, so you still owe me."
"Fine. I was thinking about Dad. Ok? Happy? Good, now we can move on."
Sam shook his head.
"Not so fast. I know this whole thing with Dad's death has been getting to you, better than anyone, but this isn't about that. This is different, and it's only been the last week or so. Don't treat me like a fool, Dean. I know when you're lying to me."
Dean bit back the retort that he wasn't lying, particularly since it wasn't true. Sam was right, as usual, an irritating habit that he'd seemed to perfect lately. It was beginning to seriously get on Dean's nerves, not least because he wasn't quite up to putting on his usual game face. Instead he was apparently being as transparent as glass, and therefore stuck in an endless loop of Sam knowing something was wrong and trying to get him to talk about it.
It was like an emo version of Groundhog Day.
"Don't you ever get tired of wanting to talk about everything?" he said and Sam raised his eyebrows.
"Don't you ever get tired of avoiding talking about anything?" he countered and Dean appeared to consider the question.
"No, not really."
"Yeah, well maybe I do. Sitting in a bar downing beer after beer and getting maybe two hours sleep a night is not dealing with things, Dean. And in our job it's practically suicidal if you want the truth."
Dean looked up, stung.
"That's not fair. You know I wouldn't risk going on a hunt if I wasn't capable."
"Really? How many times have you been hung-over lately, huh? How many times have you nearly fallen asleep while driving?"
Sam felt like a total jerk for being the cause of the hurt that flashed in Dean's eyes at the accusations but he had to make his brother see sense and this was the only way he could think of right now. He'd make it up to him afterwards.
"Fine, you don't think I can be trusted to watch your back then maybe we should split up. You can go stay with Bobby, I'm sure he'd appreciate the help."
For a drunk person Dean moved remarkably quickly, sliding up and out of the booth before Sam even had a chance to react. Sam swore under his breath and got to his feet, rushing after his brother as he disappeared into the crowd, heading for the door.
As he stumbled past the other patrons Sam's head was spinning. How the hell had trying to get Dean to tell him what was wrong suddenly turned into a decision to split up? Pushing aside the panic Dean's pained statement had raised, Sam pushed open the door and stepped out into the cold night. He scanned the parking lot, making out Dean's hunched form as he stalked towards the road. Sam quickly sped up and crossed the distance between them in seconds, grabbing Dean's shoulder.
Dean turned round, stumbling slightly and pulling his shoulder out of Sam's grip.
"Let go, Sam." he said, his tone warning. Sam ignored it.
"No, I won't let go. What the hell has gotten into you, Dean? I try to find out what's been bothering you and suddenly you think we should split up and I should go hunt with Bobby? Dude, that's an overreaction even for you."
"It's not an overreaction. You're the one who thinks I can't do my job because I'm drinking too much or not sleeping enough! I'm just being practical, Sam."
"No, you're being insane. Dean, look at me. Please, would you just look at me?"
Dean stubbornly kept his eyes on the ground and when Sam reached out to try and put his hand on his brother's shoulder again Dean stepped back and pulled his arm out of reach, flinging his hand up in the air. Sam automatically ducked a little and as he did so Dean suddenly paled. Sam frowned at the reaction then his eyes widened as he saw Dean swallow convulsively and he knew what was coming next.
He barely had time to grab hold of Dean's shoulder properly this time before his brother bent over and emptied his stomach. Sam grimaced but held on, resting his other hand supportively on Dean's back. It was over in a few minutes and Sam helped Dean stumble away from the mess, sitting him down on a bench nearby.
"Stay here." he said, his tone inviting no argument as he quickly hurried across the parking lot to the soda machine chained to the wall outside the bar. Dean miserably complied, his head spinning in a way that made him feel he'd fall off the bench if he didn't hold on.
Which he did.
As Sam came back with a bottle of water in his hand he saw Dean had leant forward, his head almost touching his knees, while both his hands gripped the edge of the bench tightly. Despite the seriousness of the situation Sam couldn't help but take some small amusement, remembering how much Dean had enjoyed Sam's own self induced suffering in the past. Reaching his brother he bent down and lightly touched Dean's knee.
Dean jerked his head up as he felt someone touch him then shut his eyes tightly as he remembered sudden movements were a really bad idea. When the scenery had finally caught up with him he opened his eyes again and saw Sam watching him with a concerned expression. On gaining his attention again, his brother held out the bottle of water which he'd already opened.
"Here." he said, quietly, and Dean risked letting go with one hand long enough to take it. He took a swig and rinsed his mouth, spitting it out on the ground, then took a few small sips which he chanced swallowing. His stomach churned but didn't appear up for a repeat performance so he risked a couple more.
Sam watched all this in silence, only moving to sit on the bench as well when he was certain Dean wasn't about to throw up again or keel over. Aware of Sam moving in the periphery of his vision Dean gingerly sat up straighter and leant back against the table behind him. He took shallow breaths, wishing the dizziness would go away. It was one of those things that you always forgot was that bad when you were sober again.
Which was probably the only reason why people ever drank more than once really.
Working out that it wasn't too bad if he just kept his head still Dean drank some more of the water and waited for the inevitable. To his credit Sam actually gave him almost five whole minutes to collect himself before he spoke again.
"So given that I didn't leave you to fall headfirst in your own vomit, do I get a proper answer now?"
Dean groaned and closed his eyes again briefly, before giving Sam a sideways glare since he couldn't move his head.
"Nice. That's really helping, Sam, thanks."
Dean grimly decided Sam was enjoying this far too much. He was definitely going to remember this next time his brother was hung-over. Which wouldn't be too long, given that Sam was pretty much a lightweight. He glanced to his left again and saw Sam was still watching him expectantly.
"Alright, I'll tell you. But only if you promise to shoot me."
Sam's smack on his arm wasn't as gentle as it could have been, given his fragile condition, and Dean had to swallow a couple of times at the movement.
"That's not funny, Dean."
"I'm not laughing. And I wouldn't be doing that again unless you want me to barf on you."
Sam shifted a little further along the bench.
Realising that Sam unfortunately had no intention of putting him out of his misery, Dean sighed.
"Ok. You wanna know what's bothering me? It's the fight we had."
Dean actually risked turning his head this time and raised one eyebrow.
"You think we have that many?"
"Well, lately we've had a few, yeah." said Sam and Dean reluctantly realised he did have a point.
"I'm talking about the one outside the motel. When Gordon was there." he elaborated.
"Oh, you mean the one where you punched me?"
Dean winced and suddenly the penny dropped for Sam.
"You're kidding? That's what's been bothering you this whole time? That you hit me?"
"Dude, could you not yell it to everyone? They'll think I go round beating the crap out of you." Dean hissed.
"Come on, Dean, it was barely even that big of a deal. I've been hit a hell of a lot harder."
"Not by me." said Dean and Sam smirked slightly as a thought occurred.
"Actually that's not exactly true." he said and Dean frowned.
"What do you mean?" he demanded.
"Don't you remember? It was the first year Dad agreed to let me go hunting. We'd been moving around a lot and I was really pissed off because I was finding it hard to keep settling into new schools so Dad decided to let me start training, probably to give me something to do so I wouldn't keep complaining to him. Except Dad being Dad actually left it to you."
Dean thought about it for a moment then the memories came rushing back. Fourteen year old Sam, standing sullenly in front of him while he ran through the basics that John had taught him himself four years previously. Dean had been about as keen on the idea as Sam was at the time, having had better things to do at that age than try to deal with his little brother's black moods. But he'd recognised the importance of the training and once they'd gotten into it, he'd actually enjoyed the time he and Sam had spent together, sparring and learning all the weapons. Even Sam had stopped sulking long enough to actually get into the swing of things and it had all been going well until John had announced yet another move.
Dean could remember the afternoon as if it was yesterday now. He'd come home to slamming doors and raised voices, knowing even before he'd gone inside that he was in for yet another night spent playing piggy in the middle. He'd managed to stop them yelling long enough to tell him what the matter was, and although he'd understood Sam's frustration he'd also understood John's reasons for moving on. He'd eventually given up on trying to get them to reach a compromise, instead suggesting that Sam work out some of his aggression sparring with him. He smiled slightly as he remembered it hadn't been so much a suggestion as a case of him literally dragging Sam out to the back yard and away from their father. He'd known in the back of his mind that sparring with Sam in such a volatile mood wasn't a good idea but it had seemed the safest option at the time.
What he hadn't banked on was Sam shifting his anger from John to him. His brother had interspersed their sparring with snide comments about Dean always doing what John told him, not to mention a few other choice complaints, until in the end Dean had been almost as mad as Sam was. The sparring had become more real than the usual training, both of them aiming to hit home rather than holding back. Dean could remember that even at that age Sam's height had put him almost equal with him and they'd been pretty evenly matched. Until Sam had blurted out something – Dean wasn't even sure now what it was – that had made Dean truly see red. He'd brought his elbow back just as Sam was trying to get him in a headlock and he could still hear the crunch as it had connected with Sam's nose.
Looking at Sam's amused expression Dean was certain that his brother was replaying the scene in his own mind. Sam's pained yell had been enough to snap Dean out of his rage instantly and as he'd turned round and seen his brother on the floor, holding a hand to his face with blood starting to pour everywhere, Dean had felt no satisfaction. Instead he'd been horrified. John had been watching from inside and had instantly come running, helping Sam up and taking him in to inspect the damage. Dean had followed behind them, his stomach churning as he'd realised that he'd really hurt Sam. Fortunately by some miracle Sam's nose hadn't been broken but by the next morning he'd had a pair of black eyes that were truly spectacular. Dean had spent the whole day helping John pack up what little stuff they had and had avoided Sam until his brother had cornered him that evening in the yard and forced him to talk to him.
It was funny but Dean had forgotten just how long Sam had been employing that particular tactic, now he thought about it.
Unable to avoid the situation any longer Dean had apologised for losing his temper only for Sam to wave away the apology, saying simply that he'd been as much to blame since he'd been goading Dean anyway. Dean had been able to do little more than stand there open mouthed as Sam dismissed the whole thing. It had still taken him a while before he'd agreed to spar with Sam again though, and even then Dean had made him agree that they wouldn't do it when they were angry over something.
Shaking his head very slightly Dean met Sam's gaze.
"Trust you to remember that one. I said I was sorry you know."
"I know and I said it wasn't all your fault – which it wasn't. The point I'm trying to make is brother's fight. It's no big deal, and certainly not worth getting yourself this worked up about."
"Yes, it is. Brothers may fight, Sam, but we don't. We've never been like that, not physically. That whole thing when we were sparring was a one off, you know that. We've always stuck to throwing words not punches."
Sam raised his eyebrows.
"That's not necessarily better, Dean. Words can do a lot more damage sometimes."
Dean thought back to some of the fights they'd had, especially before Sam had left, and had to concede that Sam was right.
"That doesn't matter. Fact is I shouldn't have hit you."
"No, you shouldn't have. But you were upset and what I said was out of line, and I know you didn't mean it. Anymore than I really thought you were going to hit me a moment ago. I was just ducking because I know right now your depth perception is totally out of whack. That's all."
Dean blushed as he realised Sam had guessed what had made him react like that earlier. He drank some more water, partly to soothe his throat and partly to buy some time. Sam moved a little closer again, concerns about getting thrown up on forgotten.
"Listen, you're right when you say we've never been the type to resort to physical violence and you know what? That's still the case. This was a one off, under extreme circumstances. It doesn't mean I think you're gonna do it again next time we're pissing each other off and it does not mean I hold it against you. Why do you think I wasn't interested in getting my own back when you offered? I'm more worried about the fact you're still bottling everything up and resorting to this, if you want the truth. And before you say it I don't mean because you're not gonna be up to hunting. Cos I'm gonna ignore what you said back there and blame it on the alcohol frying your brain cells. The few you've got left that is."
Dean risked a nudge with his elbow which Sam easily avoided.
"I'm just." he stopped and Sam prompted him gently when he didn't continue.
"You're just what?"
"I'm just tired of feeling like this. I'm just.. tired. I'm really tired, Sam." he said, softly.
"I know. Me too."
"So what now?" said Dean, after a moment, and Sam's lips quirked.
"Now I get to drag you back to the motel and tomorrow morning I get to laugh when you have the hangover from hell."
Dean groaned and rested his head on his knees again.
"You're gonna enjoy this, aren't you?" came the muffled response and Sam's smirk grew.
"Oh yeah. I may even take pictures. Of course there is a more serious point I'm gonna make."
Dean lifted his head slightly and looked sideways at Sam, ignoring the fact his view was more tilted than it should have been.
"Which would be?"
"That you need to stop doing this. I mean it, Dean, you've been drinking too much lately and it's not the answer. I'm not saying you have to share everything, cos I know that would bring about the apocalypse, but maybe you could consider an actual conversation now and then. Even if it's just the small stuff. Ok?"
Dean thought about it. Much as he hated to admit it, Sam just might have a point. Certainly it couldn't be anymore painful than this night had been.
"There. That wasn't so hard, was it?" he said and Dean gave him a half hearted glare. Or rather one that was aimed in Sam's general direction, since focusing was an issue.
"You have no idea." he said, with feeling.
Chuckling Sam stood up and helped Dean to his feet, holding onto him until the swaying more or less stopped.
"Come on, lets get you back to the motel before you start breaking into song." he said.
Dean merely grinned at him and cleared his throat before starting on the opening verse of Nothing Else Matters at the top of his lungs. Sam groaned and began walking quicker, keeping hold of the back of Dean's jacket with one fist as he attempted to steer him in a relatively straight line.
And contemplated leaving him somewhere till morning.
It was a mercifully short walk to the motel, despite Dean's somewhat vague notion of direction, and Sam was more than relieved to deposit his brother in the bathroom with instructions not to lock the door and to try not to knock himself out in the shower. By some miracle Dean emerged unscathed, still singing, and he crawled into bed with a sigh of relief. Now he'd stopped moving and was lying down he was uncomfortably aware that the spinning sensation was back and he tried to keep as still as possible. He could hear Sam moving about and he cracked one eye open long enough to see a glass of water and two pills materialise on the cabinet next to him, along with a waste bin that went between the beds.
"Just in case." said Sam, far too cheerfully for Dean's liking, and Dean mumbled his thanks while remembering the cheerful part for when he wasn't feeling like total crap. He really was looking forward to Sam's next hangover.
He was aware after a while that Sam hadn't moved yet and opened both eyes this time, seeing his brother sat on his own bed still watching him.
"What?" he croaked and Sam looked contemplative for a moment.
"Nothing. I just want to be sure you'll remember this tomorrow." he said and Dean winced.
"Oh trust me, I'll remember."
"I meant the important bits."
Dean looked at Sam, focusing after some effort with a serious expression.
"So do I. I'll remember – I promise."
Sam looked satisfied.
"Good. Because if you don't I can always remind you."
Dean pulled the covers up over his head.
"I'd actually rather you just agreed to the shooting thing." he said in a pained voice and Sam rolled his eyes.
Switching the main light off Sam turned on one of the lamps and checked one last time before heading for the bathroom. He was actually fairly certain that this just might do the trick on this occasion. Certainly the headache Dean would no doubt be suffering in the morning would be enough to drive the point home. As he switched the shower on he thought back to the painful lesson he'd had to learn when he was fourteen and grinned ruefully.
Winchester's definitely didn't pull their punches, but sometimes – when it really mattered – that was no bad thing.